On the teaching and learning of physics problem solving

S. Rojas


This article presents a six-step problem-solving strategy, aimed at addressing three major problems in the learning and teaching of physics: 1) the demand by physics instructors for effective teaching strategies that could help in the teaching of intuitive conceptual and quantitative reasoning in physics, and how to teach both aspects holistically; 2) the students' need for suitable methodology that could help students to fill the gap in textbooks on enhancing their mathematical reasoning abilities, which are essential for reinforcing students' knowledge of conceptual physics; and 3) a deficiency in the teaching of physics leading to students not being taught a coherent physics problem-solving strategy that would enable them to engage in both mathematical and conceptual reasoning. After a review of publications made by the {\em Physics Education Research group} (PER), the importance of a structured, systemic methodology to solve physics problems is considered. Then a structured, systemic methodology for solving physics problems is described by extending the well-known problem-solving steps presented by Polya. The proposed strategy includes the following steps: 1. Understand the problem, 2. Provide a qualitative description of the problem, 3. Plan a solution, 4. Carry out the plan, 5. Verify the internal consistency and coherence of the equations used, and 6. Check and evaluate the obtained solution. Finally, an illustrative example is provided: the calculation of the moment of inertia of a thin hollow right circular cone.


Physics problem-solving; physics learning; teaching of physics; quantitative reasoning

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Revista Mexicana de Física E

ISSN: 2683-2216 (on line), 1870-3542 (print)

Semiannual publication of Sociedad Mexicana de Física, A.C.
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